Nuclear in Alberta: What could have been and could still be

So recently I found this. The public release document about the attempt to put a CANDU facility up in Peace River, Alberta. It’s a great document, very clearly written and covers all the need to know bases for people wondering about nuclear power in Alberta. But what I really want to draw peoples attention to is the estimates for the number of jobs that constructing a single nuclear facility was estimated to provide.

Delicious link for all those interested

“The number of jobs created during construction depends on the size and scale of the plant. A study by the US Department of Energy assessed construction requirements for a smaller Generation III plant (approximately 1300 MW) and found that its construction would require nearly 700 person-years for pipe fitters alone. Peak construction requirements of a project of this size would exceed 10% of the Alberta workforce in trades such as iron working, boiler making and pipe fitting.”

page 19 Alberta Nuclear Consultation workbook and survey, 2009, ISBN 978-0-7785-6337-2
Emphasis added for effect

So… I mean if we are wanting to transition off coal anyways… And we have a bunch of trades people looking for work because the price of oil is depressed… Just saying, building a few of these in sequence would be a good way to rebuff the worst of the downturn. Especially since that once they were completed we would still have thousands of high paying jobs needed to operate them

“The operational staffing level of a power reactor is well-established. The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) has assessed the 17 CANDU reactors operating in Canada and finds a direct workforce at about 949 employees per reactor, on average. This is somewhat higher than is expected for the advanced CANDU, or Generation III, reactors. For comparison, a typical coal-fired plant (with two 450 MW units) employs a significantly smaller number – 100 to 200 employees (excluding mine operations), depending on the plant.

page 19 Alberta Nuclear Consultation workbook and survey, 2009, ISBN 978-0-7785-6337-2
Emphasis added for effect

Even taking into account the generally lower capacity factor and generation capacity of coal plants to nuclear plants, thus requiring more coal plants than nuclear to make the same amount of electricity, nuclear still provides more direct jobs.

And if you want to make sure there are still mining jobs for any coal miners who might lose their jobs with a decrease in Alberta’s coal consumption, then boy do I have great news for you! Alberta has pretty substantial deposits of uranium and thorium bearing rock in the Black Shale formations. And as luck would have it, there are many other valuable materials there like nickel, copper, cobalt (the most important probably for reasons I’ll touch on later), scandium, lithium, and assorted rare earth elements that have been unable to be extracted due to… You guessed it, the presence of uranium and thorium in the ore bodies which would require extremely costly separation and long term storage!

So not only do we stabilize our economy against the boom bust roller coaster of the international oil market, we provide long term construction jobs, high paying operator jobs in a stable industry, mining jobs for horizontal movement of displaced coal miners, and to top it off we can stop using cobalt mined by child slaves at the same time.

I know that I like to not be party to child labor. Pretty sure these kids would like to not be working here too. And if you think this is me being too manipulative by bringing children being forced to work in toxic environments from across the world into the picture then I have several suggestions for you. Pretty sure most of them are anatomically impossible though.

4 thoughts on “Nuclear in Alberta: What could have been and could still be

Add yours

  1. Your post jogged a memory for me – I’ll link to one comment of mine but this is a grand old thread from the best days of a great site:

    I tried to argue there nuclear builds would be a great project in an economic downturn – when government should want to spend money on projects that will contribute to a stronger economy allowing deficits to be addressed in better times.

    this is an exception as generally jobs are viewed as costs, and usually the cost of capital is substantial.


  2. There was a survey of Albertans connected to the “Consultation Document” Sean. It is still available online.
    I’m not so sure job creation is a strong argument in favor of nuclear energy as high job creation implies high costs. Nuclear technology can provide reliable electrical energy at reasonable cost now and especially for the very long term beyond eventual depletion of fossil fuel resources.


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